Regions:Canada, Caribbean, Europe
Good for: Families. Value for Money. Teens.
Regions:Alaska, California Coastal, Panama Canal
Good for: Teens. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, South America
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe
Good for: Group. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Asia & Africa, Australia
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Seniors.
Regions:Canada, Caribbean, Europe
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Group.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Group.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Alaska, California, Panama Canal
Good for: Seniors. Group. Singles.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe, Hawaii
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Overall Service. Group.
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Overall Service. Teens. Children`s Programs.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Panama Canal
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, South America
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, South Pacific, Tahiti
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess by TerryTwo Southern Caribbean November 23, 2008
First, a bit of useful information. While this was our fifth cruise with Princess, this was the first time I noticed it. I was told that it is like this on all Princess ships. That I cannot confirm. I can confirm that on the Caribbean Princess the color of the passenger cabin walkway carpet side trim is a different color on the port and starboard sides. A light red on both sides of the carpet on the port side and turquoise on the starboard side. A quick glance when you exit the elevator and you'll easily find your side of the ship.
After having written several cruise reviews and read a hundred or so, I have come to the conclusion that they are better left to the professionals for an accurate review of what to expect. Why? There are several reasons.
Look at the number of reviews that passengers write compared to the number of passengers. It's about one in five to ten thousand that write a review. Human behavior being what it is, we are far more likely to write areview if our expectations are not met than if they are. It is almost a certainty that at least one of the two to three thousand passengers will be unhappy. (You cannot find two thousand lottery winners that are all happy that they won.)
Cruise ships try to have something for everyone. I, like most cruise passengers, have little to no interest in some of what they offer. (Personally, it would take a very serious inducement to get me into a cigar lounge.)
We all bring a different experience to the cruise. If you live in Vegas and travel to New York a couple of times a year to see some "real" theater, then you'll probably find the entertainment a bit boring. If, on the other hand, this is your first trip outside of French Lick, you'll probably find the entertainment awesome.
So, if you want to know what to expect on a cruise, or from a cruise line, or from a specific ship, read the professional reviews. What we passengers can, and should, provide are bits of useful information; such as the bit about the carpets I provided at the beginning of this review. With that in mind I offer the following information.
Princess has two post and/or pre-cruise hotels in San Juan, PR -- The Marriott and the Sheraton Old San Juan. There is almost nothing within walking distance of the Sheraton. Nice hotel with a small casino, but very little around it. When we next cruise with Princess out of San Juan in February of '09, we'll try the Marriott. When we drove by it on the way to the Sheraton there appeared to be many more places to shop and dine in the immediate area.
Wonderful cruise to Hawaii for a Thanksgiving. The only thing I have to say bad about the ship is that the casino is very tight. Service was perfect in every way. Food was excellent in everyway. Stateroom service was perfect in everyway. Thanks Golden princess. I just think the casino was very tight and I have sailed on this ship more than once.
Two months got the cruise bug again. This time we are taking two adult daughters and a friend. Booked a balcony guarantee for three and a mini guarantee for us.
In short order we got cabin assignments; Baja 743 for them (second cabin from the rear) and Dolphin 215 for us.
Five days before the cruise, I learn the company I had used to obtain the booking has gone belly up. Triple check and our cruise has been paid for and is secure.
The morning of embarkation, we woke up to a weird cloudy sky. Found out quickly that the hills of North Eastern Los Angeles were once again on fire. The strange thing is this exact same thing happened last year when we took the same cruise. In addition, another large fire broke out to the East.
Got our junk together in record time and all five of us met down at the docks just before noon. We would have been on board in record time, except the wife recognized the person who checked us in as an old friend from 18 years ago. So after all the jabbering, we breezedthrough security and were in our cabin by 12:30.
The sky south of the ship was a bright blue, while everything to the North was a dark gray to black, from all the smoke. Went up for a snack at the Horizon Court. Rather strange to look out one side of the ship to a bright San Pedro, and then turn your head to see what appears to be the makings of a terrible storm.
Went forward on Lido to the pool area to watch Ports-O-Call to go by at "sail away". People were swimming, dancing and really trying to have a good time. Unfortunately, the sky was raining ash from the fire 20 or so miles away. Ash from dust-sized particles to large one-inch chunks of burned vegetation fell on the entire county. While most just brushed their hair off or swiped a towel at a chair, some folks were having a problem just breathing. We were not having a great time so decided to fall back into the cabin and wait for the ship to push back.
Just as we were entering the cabin an announcement came over the P/A from Captain William Kent. The brush fires were so bad, 50% of the freeways coming into Los Angeles from the North were closed this morning and were still closed. 300 or so passengers had not made it onto the ship; the Captain stated he had orders from Princess Corporate to delay departure from 4 PM to 7 PM. So much for the great "sail slower and save fuel" concept.
Went to dinner at 6 PM at the anytime "Santa Fe" room. Another disconcerting experience -- we were seated next to a window on the starboard side that was level with the second floor of the cruise center. Eating prime rib and glancing up every so often to see a longshoreman staring at our family eating.
7 PM came and went but the ship stayed put. Captain came on again stating he had been ordered to wait until 8 PM for the last 17 passengers. As it happens, we ran into a couple of the latecomers that night. They said they came into Los Angeles over the "grapevine" expecting to get to the cruise center in the usual 3 hours. Hit a wall of brake lights, waited a while and finally turned around and drove a couple of hundred miles to get around the problem. The 3 hour drive turned into an 8 hour endurance race. More about this later.
A little after 8 PM we pushed back and eased into the channel. The Captain once again came onto the P/A to say everything is fine and we will get into Puerto Vallarta on time.
This is the first time we have indulged in a mini-suite and it may have spoiled us. Dolphin 215, starboard side about 120 feet behind the bridge wing.
For those who have not had the privedge; bathroom is about three feet longer so a bathtub could be wedged into the space. The tub is rather deep and installed even higher to accommodate the plumbing pipes between tub and deck. Only after getting in and out do I find the hand bar that was hidden behind the towels.
I didn't think the extra 12 feet of "sitting room" would make that much difference. I was wrong. The sofa/couch is a welcome addition and the small table and second chair that have always been in the way in our balcony cabins, now have a logical place to be. Half the time when we are in the cabin one of us is on the sofa.
Being on Dolphin, the balcony is about 9' by 10'. A table, two ridged chairs and two reclining chairs fill this area. A table and two full loungers would have been perfect.
Plenty of storage room, about the same for the standard balcony. Only difference is the TV/refrigerator/sideboard looking thing. Shaped in a half circle on the wall opposite the desk, it has two TV's on the top shelf (one for the bed and one for the sitting area), a large granite counter space, refrigerator and two large shelves.
Need an electrical plug, no problem. Just inside the door, a double outlet near the floor, and in the bathroom a single outlet for low amp devices only. A double outlet at the desk and behind each of the two TV's. Nine outlets, no problem, right? The outlets are so close together and the plugs and transformers for my devices are so large, I can only plug in one thing at a time at any of the locations. I guess that power strip I forgot back at home would have come in handy.
We meet our steward, Rico Lalap, who is pleasant enough. The room is set up as twins, so when we ask for the bed to be changed to a queen, with egg crate and robes, he states he'll change the setup within the hour and will try to supply the egg crate and robes today, but can't promise they will be available. We say anything would be appreciated and more than likely these will be the only requests for the week. By the third day, we have no other requests and Rico has a true smile when we pass in the hall.
I set up the laptop at the desk and soon discover I can link up via Wi-Fi from the cabin. Don't know if the ship has been upgraded or it's because we were so close to the bridge. I don't care, just happy for the convenience.
When the ship was first put into commission, the plan was to have one large traditional dining room with an early and late seating. Four smaller rooms were to be used as P.C. (Personal Choice) dining. For this ship 1/3 traditional and 2/3 P.C. Over the years the concept of P.C. changed to "Any Time" with any nuance that the ship itself instituted over the years. Anyway ON THIS cruise this is what's going on. The Savoy, Pacific Moon and Santa Fe are the anytime dining rooms. The International and the smaller Vivaldi are traditional seating. Bottom line, we have anytime dining and have had to wait every night for a table no matter what time we arrive. Don't know if anytime is on the way out or if Princess just changes what dining rooms do, depending on how many people want traditional.
And now a word about dining room dress code. On the first night we saw someone turned away because he was wearing shorts that were mid calf. Ten minutes later a man with shorts and T-shirt was shown to a table. On the first formal night, a man was turned away from two rooms because he had no tie. The third room he was admitted without a problem. Whatever dress code there is depends on who is working the door.
We sailed South at the normal fuel burning 21 knots and arrived at the scheduled time of 10:00 AM in PV. Other than a walk over to Wal-Mart, we just enjoyed the empty ship. After leaving Puerto Vallarta, my wife spoke with a woman who lives in the "valley" in Los Angeles, a 90 minute drive on a normal weekend. Due to the fires closing freeways, they got to the pier at 8:45, long after the ship had cleared the break water. They flew down to P.V. to meet the ship.
In Mazatlan, we found the old cruise center had some new paint and another room had been added. But the passengers getting off the tram still have to deal with a gauntlet of time share salesmen, vendors and 20 or so men trying to get you into their limo, R.V., taxi or golf cart. Since the cruise center only allows certain sales people in, they must have to pay for the privilege. In other words, the cruise passenger is subjected to the pushiest salespeople I have ever seen with the approval of the cruise center. New paint on the cruise center, calling the clean part of town "Golden Zone" and calling every day hotels "resorts", Mazatlan is still a small industrial city that needs to clean up more than just the streets. Anyway, the five of us went to Stone Island using King David. Several hours of quiet time near the beach with some simple food and a plate of boiled shrimp. Yes there were a few vendors selling the usual stuff. A simple no and they move on. A return trip to Stone Island in the future is not out of the question.
In Cabo, we again opted to stay on the ship. This is the abbreviated stop so anything one plans can only last a few hours. After 1:30, the last passengers returned from shore but we didn't leave. There was a mechanical failure in the life boat's wenching system that was never actually repaired. It took hours to recover the tender/life boat and the ship did not pull anchor until long after sunset.
Princess had again scheduled the Sapphire to sail slower to conserve fuel and return to Los Angeles at 8:00 AM, two hours later than the usual 6:00 AM. Again the Captain had to drop the hammer and head North at full speed. We were told we would dock at 11:00 AM, but due to the lack of head winds we shaved an hour off the time. Our disembarkation group was to meet in the Casino, rather surprised that there were less than 30 people there. As we waited for our group to be called for disembarkation, we watched Christmas decorations being put up about the ship. We were off and on the way home by 12:20 PM.
The ship itself was in excellent condition. Bright paint, only sign of wear I found were the hand rails inside the elevators. Even the carpets looked new. I know the ship is more than a few years old, so I did look for anything negative I could find. Two burned out light bulbs, that's it.
Overall the food quality was good, only excellent quality we experienced was the one night we tried Sterling. Horizon Court food was sometimes cold and on the greasy side. Items on the standard room service menu tended to be dry. Service in the dining room was excellent as usual.
The CD and staff were bright and cheery but seemed plastic at times. Happened by a "repeat" show one night and saw the assistant CD do the exact four minute intro word for word. A number of different stage productions were presented during the week, I don't think there was a repeat performance of any one show. There were a few "comedians" who did 30 minute shows who only had a good 10 minutes of material. Quite a few pax were observed to leave the theatre in the darkness. Dan Bennett performed three shows one night but was sandwiched in between the Newlywed Show and movies; he had to cut his act short due to time constraints. Too bad, his act was the best available for the entire week. I can only assume Princess has cut back on the budget for entertainment and depends more on stage shows, movies and shows costing nothing since the talent is provided by the passengers for talent such as Princess Idol.
Hopefully Princess is paying attention. We have cruised with this line repeatedly because of the attention to detail and quality of product provided in the past. In my opinion, it appears they have started to cut corners as far as food and performers brought on board. As mentioned, they attempted to save money by reducing ship speed. It makes one wonder where else the bean counters have forced cuts.
All five of us had a great time. My 20 something who had turned her nose up at the thought of a cruise quickly planned her day around trivia and bingo. Like her father, she looked for somewhere to hide so she wouldn't have to get off the ship.
My husband and I, together with our two sons and their wives, were on this cruise to celebrate our Golden Wedding Anniversary.
We found the crew very good, as well as our accommodations and catering arrangements.
Our main bone of contention was the 15% surcharge on all drinks, which we found bordering on immoral.
We felt that the stopover in Venezuela was probably to take on board cheap fuel, as few of the passengers and staff went ashore.
I have sent an email to the company on my return from this cruise, but have not been honoured with a reply!
I would certainly not travel with the Princess Line again.
This was our 8th Cruise, 6th on Princess but we have also sailed with Carnival & RCCL. I am 59 and DH is 60. We really enjoy cruising and prefer it to land vacations since you unpack once, but get to see so many different places.
The Emerald Princess is a beautiful ship and I noticed it immediately after boarding how everything shined. The Piazza is really lovely, done in beautiful green hues, with mosaic tile floors & stunning staircase. The crew we encountered were all very friendly, the food was the best we ever had -- on any cruise -- and service was great.
Our cabin was aft (B749) and we thoroughly enjoyed it, had great views of the sea & our room steward took good care of us -- no complaints. We had a couple of nites of rough seas leaving FLL, after that they were pretty calm. However, we learned real quickly to put the hangers on the floor so they don't bang around in the closet!
We did anytime dining in the Di Angelo dining room with Marvin our waiter who knew the menu well and made greatsuggestions on what to select for our meals.
The Horizon seemed a little better organized on this ship. Not sure why but maybe the "Enter" & "Exit" at each end instead of everyone wandering all over helped.
We ate breakfast in the dining room 3 times and it was such a treat, especially on disembarkation day. The "Crown Grill" was delicious -- DH had the pork chop and I did the lobster tails and oh, don't miss the desert "Crown Dependence." It is a sampler of all of them!
Even though we are Platinum we do not use the Internet service. We are on vacation and I want to enjoy our time away from a computer. (I have enough of that at work!)
Princess Cay was rain on & off, but we always enjoy a few hours there. In St. Thomas we did a taxi on our own to Coki Beach and it is to date, my favorite beach. Great snorkeling too and don't forget the dog biscuits, the fish love them. Beach chairs, drinks & food are available as well.
Dominica is a beautiful rain forest island & we did an island tour with a private group that was fun, but with a lot of driving up & down hills. It lasted almost 5 hours and that was really too long of a tour for us. Grenada we just walked through the port terminal shops and went back to the ship for some R&R by the pool.Aruba -- What can I say -- this place is beautiful. You can walk from the terminal to all the wonderful shops. We heard that you can take a bus to the beaches for $2.30 round trip. DH wanted to take a taxi for $10.00, but I balked and found the bus terminal, hopped on bus No 10 and off we went. Since I had a map of the island we followed the stops along to "Eagle Beach" and got off. They had chair rentals ($5.00 each) and a tiki hut with snacks & drinks, right across from Amsterdam Manor, which is a resort, I think. Anyway, hadn't been on a bus in years but it was fun.
In Bonaire we did a Princess excursion on the Samur -- a Sail & Snorkel to Kline Bonaire. We had a great time on the beach, it's also a good snorkeling spot. I would recommend them.
As for the entertainment -- We enjoyed "Motor City" in the Princess Theater, and the magician. We also enjoyed the music in the "Wheelhouse."
On sea days we loved to relax by the pools, read, play the wooden horse races, go to bingo and even played "Elevator Roulette" -- not to be missed -- it was a riot! And -- the pool patrol was on their toes! We saw six chairs that had towels, no other personal items, that were left vacant for just over an hour and a staff member removed the towels!
What more can I say? We loved the ship and hope to sail her again soon!
My husband and I had anticipated a fantastic cruise for our 25th wedding anniversary. Instead, we were disappointed.
We booked a balcony mini-suite and discovered the lack of privacy as your balcony can be viewed by anyone above you since the balconies are arranged like stair steps.
Our king-sized bed was actually two twin beds pushed together and we felt the side support keenly in our backs any time we ventured to the center of the bed.
The food in the buffet was not great. The saving grace of the cruise was the dining plan we chose (freestyle dining). The food in the various dining rooms was fantastic and the attendants even more so.
We asked for the "anniversary package" expecting a nice bouquet of flowers, but were greeted by three mass produced "Happy Anniversary" balloons taped to our door. Not much hoopla for your "Silver Anniversary."
The locations we stopped at were very beautiful and the selection of excursions was nice.
My husband and I first thought about Hawaii for our 25th anniversary. Too bad we didn't stick with that original plan and save the cruise for later!!!
Overview – This was our ninth cruise with Princess in eight years, and our second Pacific Coastal Cruise, as we did a northern bound coastal cruise in 2002. I hate to have to say this, but we have found the over-all quality decreasing over the last five years, and we keep on booking our next cruise with Princess, in hopes that maybe the cruise we just were on was an anomaly, but in reality, the over-all quality has decreased, and it is unlikely that we will book with Princess for our next cruise, and will look at other cruise lines. I would like to note that the Senior and Executive Staff on board ship are extremely nice and professional, and the passengers were friendly and help make the cruise enjoyable. We met a young couple from Alberta, and it was nice to see familiar faces when out on excursions and to have other people to talk to.
Embarkation – Princess used to have "Priority Embarkation" services for Platinum Card Holders, but along with other "Premiums" for Platinum Card Holders that they have eliminated, this too appears to have been eliminated. The Embarkationwas about as smooth as your typical Airport Check In Process, with a lack of agents to assist you and the ones that were there, appeared to have little or no previous experience. Luckily, the lines were not extremely long, and after lugging our baggage (No Handlers Available) we made it through check in and onto the ship. Note: Princess used to send you a Blue Plastic Envelope with a Cruise Coupon Book, along with all your paperwork that took the guess work out of getting checked in. Now they have opted for "E Tickets" and the Internet for form processing which made the overall process confusing.
State Room – We had a Balcony on the Aloha Deck (Deck 12) as we always opt for a Balcony or Mini-Suite. The room was dirty and we spent the first few hours using the towels to wipe everything down, as it was obvious that it was not cleaned prior to our boarding. Getting a good Steward will make or break your experience aboard a cruise ship, and unfortunately, we got the absolute worst steward we have ever had. My Wife has a bad back due to a recent Auto Accident, and we had requested three months in advance, via Fax, E-Mail, Postal Mail and The Internet the need to have the Egg Crate Mattress Pad on our bed, along with extra "Down" Pillows and Robes in our State Room. Although all of this was clearly identified in our Pre-Cruise Check List Summary, the Steward and his Manager were oblivious to these requests, and promptly told us they had none available and there was nothing they were going to do to rectify the situation or honor our requests. In addition to our check in issues, our Steward failed daily to fill our Ice Bucket, failed to leave fresh towels, and failed to leave the cards used to request breakfast or fruit. So, we were constantly calling room service for these items which should have been provided as part of the daily service. Additionally, we had two days where the Steward just failed to clean our room at all; even though we used the Service Card when-ever we left our room. We never did receive towels for the pool, which should have been in our room from day one.
Cruise Staff – I have to say the Medical Staff were the best we have ever had. The Doctor was very friendly and professional, and even had a sense of humor. The rest of the Medical Staff were courteous and prompt, along with the Senior Staff that we encountered in the Boutiques and Shops, and at The Customer Service Desk (Purser Desk). The Staff in the restaurants and bars were a different story, and the quality of the talent that Princess hires now has declined dramatically from the first four or five cruises that we had sailed with them. Quite a few now do not even speak English, which made it a challenge to try to have a conversation with them, if you elect to try to do more than order something off of a menu.
The Food –
Dinner – After Eight years of cruising with Princess, they still have the same Menu, and have not changed anything with the exception of reducing down to one small lobster tail from the previous two they used to have, on the night they do server lobster. The Prime Rib was tough and dry, the King Crab was an oxymoron as the pieces were extremely small and you ended up with a plate full of knuckles and only one or two small legs and no claws.
The Horizon Court Buffet – The quality here has gone down quite a bit as well, and what is served here is the leftovers from the previous night, and the overall taste and texture are bland, tough and over-cooked. Breakfast was about the only thing edible, but seating was always a challenge as the place is always packed with no available tables.
Note: Princess only serves Coffee, Milk, Orange Juice, Iced Tea or Tap Water with their meals, as any Soda Fountain Product or other Juices come with a premium price. We had to pay $1.75 for a glass of Grapefruit Juice, and $3.00 for a bottle of water.
Entertainment – On board day time activities are extremely limited, and include such activities as Bingo, Shuffleboard, Afternoon Tea, Ceramics, and a daily movie. Princess really needs to work on getting better activities arranged, especially for the days spent at Sea, as there are just really no activities to keep close to three thousand people entertained. The Nightly activities include a Comedian, the Princess Stage shows presented by the Princess Dancers, and of course, Lounge Bands at the various bars on board ship. The quality of the Stage Shows was poor, as the cast are very amateurish, and the singers were better on earlier cruises that we have been on.
The Cruise Itself – The "First Stop" was changed from it's original destination to a small town on Victoria Island called, Nanaimo. We opted to not do a Cruise Tour here, and ended up staying on ship due to wet weather, and the need to Tender ashore. The "Second Stop" was to be at Victoria, and this was one of the reasons why we booked this cruise, so we could see Butchart Gardens. Unfortunately, although two other ships were docking at Victoria, our Captain opted to not dock there, due to potential bad weather that was to move in by that afternoon. Instead, we stayed anchored in the harbor for the morning and then departed "slowly" to our next destination of San Francisco. On our previous Coastal Cruise in 2002, we were unable to stop at Monterey due to choppy seas, so the Captain continued on and got us to San Francisco a day early in order for us to have two days there. On this cruise, this was not the case, and we just cruised slower to arrive in San Francisco on schedule.
After two days at sea, our "Third Stop" was in San Francisco, and what should have been one of the longest port days, was actually the day that we had to leave the earliest, as we had to set sail at four. There is just so much to do here that it did not do the city justice to have everyone back on board by three-thirty in the afternoon. The "Fourth Stop" was at Catalina Island, and here, the ship did not depart until Seven, which is just way too much time to spend on this Island, as it is limited to trinket shops and bars. The "Fifth Stop" was in San Diego, and luckily, we did have a full day here, as we did not set sail until six in the evening. Unfortunately, as this was also the last day before we had to disembark the following morning, the evening was spent packing and getting ready for the next morning.
Disembarking – We had a flight at 9:45 so we opted to carry our own luggage off and had a Gangway Pass that allowed us to leave the ship as soon as it docked at Los Angeles at 07:30. Unfortunately, although we were in line at 07:00, we stood in line until they finally allowed passengers off at 08:00. By this time, it was complete chaos and with no staff to help keep people in line, it was a mad exodus for the gangway as soon as they lifted the gate, with people who had been hanging out in the various lounges and bars streaming past the people who had been waiting patiently in line for the past hour.
Final Notes – Princess automatically adds on to your bill, $10.50 a day per person Gratuity Fee, that is in addition to an 18% gratuity that is already added on to any drinks or services that are purchased. This I feel should be something that is totally optional, and on their earlier cruises, they gave you envelopes to tip your Steward and / or your Waiter and Staff. Princess used to award repeat cruisers with a Status of Gold, Platinum and Elite, which gave you additional benefits, which included, Priority Embarkation, a Dedicated Lounge for Disembarkation with Breakfast, and Free Internet Service. These services appear to no longer exist, although they do offset your Internet Usage for the first $75, which helps, but due to slow internet service, it is really very easy to burn through $75 of Internet Service.
Photos – Princess prints every single photo taken, and throws away thousands of prints per sailing. Would it not make more sense to lower their price from $25 for an 8x10 to something more reasonable, and not print off all pictures?
First of all, the showers are Not That Small. Just wanted to say that right out there. I'm not a small woman, by any means (Plus size clothing section), and I had plenty of room in the shower. Even DH, who is 6 ft tall, felt comfortable in the shower.
Okay... my review of the Golden Princess. Wow. Great time, wonderful, fabulous, excellent food, service, amenities, venues, and activities. I got writer's cramp filling out all the "You made a difference" comment cards (you fill them out to highlight a crew member that really made your cruise memorable... I think they expect one or two. Yeah. Right.) on the last day. On the bright side, it made me run all over the ship to the various bars, dining rooms, and service counters getting names of people that had truly gone above and beyond to make our cruise PERFECT. Any chance for exercise is good!
Just in case you get to cruise the Golden soon, look for Maria in the Bernini dining room... tell her the Ninja Ducks sent you. Antonio was our waiter, with Cyril assisting... sort of a Portuguese Jackie Chan& Chris Tucker. Angela and Whinn at the Lobby Bar--they just went through barista training (went from damned good to truly excellent), and they make incredible soy mochas! Get a coffee card, trust me on this.
Our room steward, Jaime (a guy; pronounced "Hi - me") was amazing. We think he stayed in the hidden bunk bed in the ceiling of our room so he could pop out and clean up every time we stepped out. Always a smile, always greeted us happily, opened our door for us, found me a vase for the flowers I brought on board, always remembered the extra washcloths that I like to have handy, and found me a great fluffy pillow quickly!
Next, the FOOD. I'm a vegan, and my DH is a vegetarian, so after the first night, we tried the Bernini dining room, and asked for the head waiter. Maria was awesome. She made us a standing reservation for a table for two by the window, where the best waiters would spoil us rotten, and I think she beat the kitchen staff into submission, frequently. After a couple of meals, I just left it in her hands, and we were indulged with the most incredible meals, prepared artistically, with incredible flavors and textures... great variety! It's all her fault that we booked another cruise! Not once did I ever feel deprived of the "cruise experience" by my dietary choices... in fact, our waiter, Antonio, would pop into the kitchen to verify that something that sounded good to me would be okay "Madam, I think that dressing is too creamy... it has cream in it. No, we'll do a nice vinegarette for you, okay?" They made us laugh every night, too! Lovely people.
We also had breakfast and lunch in the dining room (Donatelli's), with only an occasional foray to the buffet. Afternoon Tea is certainly a wonderful experience! The buffet was okay, we did find the sushi buffet one day... WOW, FRESH WASABI!! consider this a warning! it was great. We did grab fresh fruit at the buffet a couple of times, as there was always a great selection of fruit.
Our stateroom: a balcony on the Baja deck, starboard side. Small room, yes, but so cleverly appointed, that we were able to misplace things regularily! Both of our HUGE suitcases fit under the bed easily... I think we could have put three of them under there. Plenty of closet room... more than I have at home, actually.
The safe uses a code only... no card required (we had taken along a card to use just for that purpose; a membership card that would not be a problem to lose/replace). Nice safe, just big enough. Lots of shelves, and a few drawers. The beds. Very firm. Also, as it was two twins shoved together to make a queen, and we did not use an eggcrate pad, the edges of the mattresses that were touching were a little raised, and rather firm. It wasn't a problem, but if I were on a longer cruise, I'd ask for a mattress pad, to facilitate cuddling a little better. The bedding was very nice, and comfortable.
Temperature control seemed very good... we kept our thermostat very low. It was warm everywhere on the ship, unless we were in port, and the gangways were out. Then, it was a bit cool and breezy near them.
I was impressed with the constant maintenance going on. Every day, we'd notice some crew members, somewhere, sprucing up something on the ship! One of the pools was closed one day, as it was drained, scrubbed, touched up, and then refilled. No matter, there was three other pools to choose from! All very nice, warm, and didn't seem over chlorinated to me. The hot tubs were great!! The ones outside were rarely in use, so we had no crowding issues.
We only did a couple of shows... first night welcome show, very nicely done. Later that week, we did a comedy juggler (Steve Patient), he was great! We also attended the champagne waterfall... I got to help pour! and danced afterwards. It was fun. (DH also poured some champagne!!)
The Wheelhouse Bar. Oh, yes... ask the bar tender, Ricardo, to show you his wine cork magic trick! Christian is another waiter that always was cheerful, prompt, accurate, and attentive. There was a latin band there, and we loved dancing there. Just sitting and people watching was good, too!
Let me mention... all the drinks that we enjoyed onboard, whether at the cocktail party (free ones) or bought in the bars/lounges, seemed pretty strong to us. Not at all "watered down"... DH had the "Iced tea" drinks... Long Island and Beverly Hills... and they were almost entirely alcohol. We did notice that the care taken in making drinks seemed a little bit more meticulous in the Wheelhouse, the Lobby bar, the Martini Bar, and the Vista Lounge (all inside bars), more than the bars at the pools, which seemed more crowded, and the bartenders a little more rushed. That may have made a difference. The price was the same, regardless of which bar one ordered at. Oh, and the bartenders did not seem to mind at all if you brought in your own drink, sat and drank it, and then left.
Water was always available. Every waiter and bartender was happy to bring me a glass of "tap" water (free, not bottled) at any time. I was asked ONCE if I wanted bottled water... they must have all told each other that I was happy with tap water, because I always got it after that, without question! It was great to sit in bars and not feel pressured to buy a drink! and, if I wanted a drink, I got a GREAT drink! (no cheap-ass booze, it was all quality stuff)
Unfortunately, none of the photos taken of us onboard were worth buying. There were a few of DH that were good, but none of me. I am not photogenic. DH wouldn't buy any if I didn't look good in them. We did buy the Reflections DVD, though... thought that might be fun.
There was a problem with Noro onboard, apparently. Seemed to us like it was only a few people, and the crew was great... no huge inconvenience, though they did have to cancel our tour of the bridge (shhh...don't tell anyone. We were asked to be discreet about it, but we were invited, yay!), which is a bit of a disappointment. Hopefully, next cruise, we can manage to be invited again.
Hated to leave. Disembarkation was okay, we were off the ship fairly promptly... it seemed longer, as I misread my watch and got us to the waiting area an hour early. Darn. We could have sat at the Lobby bar longer!
Okay, we booked another cruise (open booking)... Princess has spoiled us. Badly. I'm at home, looking around for a waiter to bring me some coffee...
We just had our first Alaskan Cruise with two other couples, our best friends on the Golden Princess. So excited to see what everyone is talking about the "Glaciers". We probably picked the wrong time of the year knowing the weather might not cooperate with us. And We were disappointed as the Ship decided not to go thru the Tracy Arm Glaciers due to Fog and Ice forming (small pieces). Our whole point of the trip was for that but other than that and getting so lost finding the right floor on this Huge ship for the different Dinning Rooms, and Bars, we had a great time.
Background: I decided to take my wife on a cruise to Alaska to celebrate our 10th anniversary. We had always discussed cruising before, and always decided against it. We just never thought it was our type of vacation. We like to be very active, outdoors, and go at our own schedule. We have about ½ a day maximum of sitting on a beach. We want to DO, that is how we relax. However, with kids and jobs straining the amount of time we can get away, and with a strong desire to see Alaska, I decided to take the plunge and try out a cruise. We elected for the 7 day Seattle-Alaska-Seattle cruise on the Golden Princess.
Overall Thoughts on Princess and the Golden: Dealing with Princess was easy. I booked directly with them, and they were good about sending documents, updates, etc. I booked my flights separately, which caused no problems. The website for Princess was easy to use, and allowed me to complete all of the required information online. I also pre-reserved two tours (Skagway and Ketchikan) online prior to our cruise, which worked out nicely. On board, the staffwas very responsive to our needs. A couple of examples: We need to change our Skagway tour from the AM to the PM. This took about 30 seconds; was really easy. One morning I went to the buffet and tried to get a pot of coffee to bring back to my wife in our room. When the person suggested I contact Room Service, I indicated I wasn't willing to wait the 30-45 minutes. She thought out of the box, and got me 2 large "to go" coffee cups that I could take back to my room. Was it the pot I asked for? No, but it solved my problem 100%. One afternoon while leaving my room, I noticed that the door was not locking correctly. Within 30 minutes, a crew of guys had taken the entire locking mechanism off the door, disassembled it, fixed it, put it back on the door and had me test it with my key to ensure it worked. The most impressive thing was that 5 minutes later the supervisor knocked on the door, checking in to make sure we were satisfied. The staff on board the Golden really do want to make sure everything is perfect for you. On the down side, there was a lot of trying to sell us stuff. Not so much the soda package (a few people asked us the first day, but after that nobody tried to get us to buy it), but everything. For example, many of the "activities" were actually trying to sell us stuff. The art "auctions?" Sales event. The "trunk shows?" Sales event. The port shopping lectures? Sales event. It got old after awhile. Is that just Princess, or the industry overall? My guess is that it is the industry overall (and based on other reviews I have seen, I think it is an industry thing, not a Princess thing).
Weather: The weather in Seattle was great; a bit foggy in the AM, but sunny and mid-60s the rest of the time. Really nice. The weather in Alaska was bad. 50's the whole time, and raining all the time (or cloudy and about to rain). However, the mist and clouds added an element of drama to the scenery, and rain doesn't make me melt; so I was happy! It is the second to last cruise of the season; I didn't expect perfect weather. In Victoria we had a beautiful evening; 60's to high 50's, and sunny.
Embarkation: All of the Princess materials say to arrive after 1 PM for faster boarding. We took Princess at their word, and have to say it was true. We got to the terminal at 1:45, and were on the ship 20 minutes later. I have waited in check in lines at airports for much longer. It was EASY to embark, we couldn't have been more pleased. We found our cabin, and set out to explore. Our bags arrived about 2 hours after we did, which was fine.
Cabin: We booked a mini-suite on the Dolphin Deck, starboard side. The room was fine, exactly as expected. The balcony was nice, with plenty of room for 4 chairs and a table. The carpet, curtains, bedding, décor, etc. were all fine. Not worn out and old, but not sparkling new either. There were no obvious signs of wear and tear, but it wasn't brand new either. There was plenty of space for all of our things. Three things to note: First, there is no iron in the room. We had some wrinkly clothes that we sent out to be pressed (about the same as we would pay in Chicago). Second, there are very few outlets in the room (total of 4, three in the room one in the bathroom). With two laptops, two cell phones, two ipods, a camera and other electronics; .keeping everything charged was a juggling act. Our cabin steward, Antonio Pereira, was good. Always there with a smile and energy, happy to do everything he could to make our cruise the best possible.
Public areas: The public areas are designed in the same fashion as the cabins. The look was fine. Not to my taste, and maybe a bit dated (it is 8 years old or so), but fine. No paint peeling, nothing hanging by a thread; .in general it was in good shape.
Dining/Food: We elected for anytime dining, and were happy we did. The food in the dining rooms was good, not great. The service in the dining rooms was good, not great (to be great, I would have expected napkins that match my pants so visible lint didn't get on them, crumbs swept off of the table between courses, a charger plate at my place setting when I arrived at the table, consistent clearing from the left, a never empty glass, etc. I have high standards for "great" service at a restaurant). I would equate it roughly with the quality of food and service level to be found at the hotel restaurants of the flagship hotels of the various national chains (Hilton, Sheraton, Marriott, etc.). Better than an Applebees or Friday's or those types of places, not as good as a fine dining restaurant of acclaim in any large city. The buffet was a buffet. Buffets are never that good, and this one is no exception. There is a lot of food, and a lot of people trying to eat it, and it was OK for a buffet. We have friends who have cruised on other lines and raved about the buffet, about fruit carvings, people taking pictures of the buffet before people started to eat from it, etc.. The Golden Princess had none of that; it was just a buffet. When we did eat in the buffet, finding a place to sit was not really tough at all (and our cruise was sold out, 2,800 passengers). We ate almost all of our meals in the dining rooms. Formal night wasn't very formal. Only 2 tuxedos in the restaurant we were in, which made me glad I had not brought mine. Lobster night was the 2nd Formal night, and was a disappointment. The lobster tail was small, probably 4-5 ounces. It was drowned in butter. The two king prawns served with it were so drowned in butter that you couldn't taste the prawn. Like I say; .disappointing. Overall, the service was good and the food was good in the dining rooms, and the buffet was a buffet.
Casino: The casino was surprisingly not crowded. They offered all of the standard table games, and lots of slots. We are not slot players, but they appeared to have most of the slots I remember seeing in land based casinos. It was always easy to get a seat at the table games, which was nice. We won a bit (mainly my wife) and lost a bit (mainly me) and enjoyed the entire time. The staff was great, made you feel at home either way.
Internet: The internet café is well stocked with computers, each with a port for all types of digital media (so you can upload your photos to a web service if you wish). Internet packages were a touch expensive compared to buying time on land, but hey; it's a ship based satellite connection. Between $.40 and $.75 per minute depending on how much you want to spend. Wifi was available in some of the public areas, not in the cabins. I had some work I needed to do, and was disappointed when the link was down for a large portion of Sunday, but hey; it's a satellite link. They go down. On the last day of the cruise, lots of people were in the café trying to print boarding passes, etc. The connection was slow, and some people were upset that they were getting charged by the minute for a slow connection. I say tough for them; .it's clear that the charge is by the minute, and there were big signs everywhere saying the connection was slow.
Naturalist: Michael Medz-Whateverhisnamewas is entirely miss-able. We attended his first lecture on our first sea day, and we excited to learn about Alaska, the culture, etc. Three major criticisms of Mikey: 1. His delivery was so pretentious, so arrogant, that I had to resist the urge to get up and leave. Not everyone in the audience did resist though; as several people got up and left mid-presentation. 2. His content was aimless. He had no theme for his talk, and basically told a bunch of random, unconnected stories. In searching for a theme, the only thing that we could come up with is that he did something (lived alone for 2 years) that he believes nobody else he has ever met could possibly do, and therefore he is far superior to everyone. 3. His delivery was awful. I know I already mentioned it, but I have to say it again. The man is hard to listen to. It's like he took speaking lessons from Shatner, and decided that Shatner's style needed to be emphasized and elongated. Painful to listen to. This guy should be fired. Keep in mind when you listen to him talk about how we should get away from material things, how we should live like the indigenous peoples; .that he's getting paid to tell you that, and that he has 3 homes (Alaska, Florida, and Tanzania). We make a lot of money, and don't have 3 homes. How far, exactly, did he get away from the material aspect of life? He speaks like he is arrogant and pompous, and his talks were self-serving. Which is all a shame, as the content could have been really good. During the tour of Tracy Arm Fjord, he was on the PA system with tidbits about the fjord and what we were seeing. He was slightly easier to listen to, as he was discussing something everyone was seeing rather than his own experiences. Except, of course, when he apparently felt that the grandeur of Alaska needed to be made more grand with his commentary, and launched into his "speakers" voice. Alaska is grand enough; Mikey only distracted from the reason we were there. The disappointing part was that the PA system could be heard on all balconies; you couldn't get away from the pompous jerk. I really didn't like him.
Juneau: Juneau was a cool little town. We got to port around midday, and walked around downtown Juneau for an hour and a half or so. Walked into most of the shops; found very little that we wanted to purchase. Most everything was tourist junk. We then went whale watching with Harv and Marv (not through Princess). This was outstanding. Thank you to this board for recommendations on Harv and Marv. We were picked up and driven for about 20 minutes out to Auke Bay, where the boats are docked. Along the way, Ted (Jay's Brother) gave us a running history lesson on Juneau. He was great. Jay Beedle was our captain (Harv that day), and he took the two of us and 4 others out on a 3 hour tour. The fog was thick, and we spent around an hour or so watching humpbacks in an area that the bigger boats were as well. Closest we got was about 400 yards or so. They we went to a place close to Shelter Island (where Jay lives) and got within 50-100 yards of a mother, a calf, and another adult. It was awesome. Then we went and checked out some sea lions, got some great scenery pics, and cruised back to Auke Bay. On the trip back to Juneau, Ted asked if we wanted to stop at the Mendenhall Glacier. Of course we said yes, so we took the short detour and had about 45 minutes at the glacier. The glacier is awesome, I am so pleased we were able to get there. Don't miss it. While there, we also saw a small black bear (Ted said it was probably 2-3 years old, on it's own but not full grown yet). Everything about our experience with Harv and Marv was top notch. Book a tour with them, it is so totally worth it you just can't believe. After the tour, we went to the Red Dog Saloon and had dinner (Reindeer sausage, yummy!) and listened to a singer, and drank some beer. It was actually a fun place, don't miss it.
Skagway: We got to Skagway bright and early. Permit me to set the scene: Skagway is a town of roughly 900 permanent residents. 4 "mega" cruise ships docked in Skagway at about the same time (including ours). That is somewhere around 10,500 tourists invading a town of about 900 people. And that happens a couple of times a week all season. You know exactly what to expect in Skagway, and the town doesn't disappoint. There are 30 jewelry stores in a town of 900 people. Before the cruise ships started coming, there was 1. It is ALL about separating you from your money. Having said that, it is also a cute little place and the shopping is MUCH better than in Juneau. We took a rainforest bike tour booked through Princess, and enjoyed ourselves. The guides were local (owned the local bike shop) and did a nice job of putting history and scenery together. The bike ride was really easy, not what I would consider exercise, and overall it was a fun time. Tons of people did the White Pass and Yukon Railroad, but sitting on a train for 7 hours wasn't what I was looking for.
Tracey Arm Fjord: We were so looking forward to the scenic cruising. We ordered room service, got our blankets and rain coats, and camped out on our balcony. We were psyched. Only problem was the fog. It was foggy. Foggy like you wouldn't believe. Fog combined with icebergs is a bad deal for ships. We cruised about a third of the way down the fjord (which was really cool), and then they decided to turn around and head out. While this was disappointing, I understand; .and frankly that is the chance you take when you take the second to last cruise of the season. I can't blame Princess for the weather, or deciding to turn around when faced with fog and ice. However, our itinerary stated that we would do the scenic cruise from 7:30 to 12:30. We turned around at 9:30. I thought that they should have waited another hour or so to see if the weather lifted.
Ketchikan: We liked Ketchikan. It was a nice place, seemed like an actual Alaska town like Juneau (unlike Skagway). We did not have much time in Ketchikan. We got up early, grabbed some food from the buffet, and got off the shp by about 7:25. We did a crash-shopping stop (we needed to buy some gifts, and this was going to be our last chance!) and then met our tour for the day at 7:50. We decided on the Eagle Island Kayak trip, booked through Princess but operated by locals.. We boarded a bus and took the roughly 30 minute drive up to the outfitters. Also on the bus were a bunch of people going on a zip line and ropes course at the same place we were kayaking from. There were only 2 other people that had signed up for kayaking that day, and we had one guide with us (really cool guy, turns out he was originally from Chicago). The tour said double kayaks, but we all got our own, which was nice. The tour also said a weight limit of 250 lbs, which I am close to (but under!), but nobody even thought twice about it. The kayak tour was great, the water was so flat and clear you could easily see 30-40 feet down, star fish, sea urchins, salmon, eagles, and seals were all spotted on the trip; .it was a great time. Then back on the bus and to the ship; no time to do anything but get back aboard the ship.
Victoria: Surprisingly, there was no queue to get off the ship in Victoria. Could be that everyone wanted to eat dinner on board before exploring the city, or that people were just going to stay onboard the whole time? Not us. We made bee-line for the gangway, and set off to explore Victoria. Now, the Gardens are the big attraction in Victoria, but we were there at night, and they stop lighting the gardens on September 15th, so seeing dark gardens wasn't on our hit list. Instead, we just walked to the downtown (about 20 minutes, very pleasant), saw the parliament building (very pretty), and then wandered over to the Empress Hotel. We had been told that the Bengal Room at the Empress was not only a really cool place, but also had a killer curry dinner. We were told correctly. The best meal of the cruise was found at the Bengal Room, the curry was great. The room itself is old world luxury, with the seating being in leather high-back club chairs and on sofas. It is a must do for a drink or dinner. Full of delicious curry, we walked back to the ship (about 30 minutes, we were walking slower!) and got back on board. There was no customs to speak of at all on this boarder crossing. Never saw a Canadian official or border person.
Disembarkation: The process was very easy. We elected to carry our own luggage off the ship, and were asked to meet others of the same persuasion in the Vista Lounge at 7:45 AM. The others who had elected to carry their own luggage off ran the gamut of ages and were both men and women. Good for all the older folks who still carry their own things. The ship was allowed to begin disembarking people at about 8 AM (this is controlled by customs, not by Princess) and the process was orderly. We were off of the ship and clear of customs (a Princess worker took our customs declaration, I literally never laid eyes on a US Government employee) by 8:25. Easy as easy could be!